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Lie Lie: Not All Chinese Are Rich

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The Chinese community, or often also referred to as “Chinese” are often associated with material success and are identical with the middle to upper income groups. But the reality, it is not always the case,

“Not all Chinese are rich,”

Said Lie Lie on the Appreciation Night of Pandu Inklusi Nusantara in Yogyakarta.

Lie Lie is a member of the Benteng China community, of Chinese descent in Tangerang area that live along the outskirts of Cisadane.

Most of China Benteng are in a difficult economic condition, with a meager income. Most residents work as diggers and grave keepers, laborers for washing clothes, and others. Mothers take care of the household and there is no activity. Not infrequently, the Benteng Chinese family was forced to borrow money from moneylenders with a substantial loan interest.

The Benteng Chinese community has lived in the area since 1740 after the tragedy of the Batavian War. This isolation makes it difficult for people to blend in.

Program Peduli is present under the Partnership umbrella partner. The local partner organization, the Association for Women’s Resource Development Centers (PPSW) came to their area and entered the community with education about co-operatives. On May 5, 2015, the Benteng Jaya Lentera Co-operative was established.

The establishment of co-operatives is not easy. Lie Lie must go here and there looking for members. Initially people refused to join co-operatives because they lacked trust. They worried that their money would be taken away.

Lie Lie tried to convince them by showing evidence that this co-operative was incorporated. At that time, 20 people registered as members.

In co-operatives, members practice baking to set up small-scale businesses. They also learn to save money, gain knowledge about agriculture, leadership, and establish active communication with the village, district, and city  government. From small-scale businesses that are initiated, the community’s economy has begun to improve. Slowly, they too can be free from debt from moneylenders and live better lives.

At present, members of the Benteng Jaya Lentera Co-operative has reached 460 people with a gross revenue up to 850 million.

The members are not only from the Benteng China Community but also other ethnic community; not only mothers, fathers also become members of co-operatives.

It is also known from co-operatives that there are still many residents who do not yet have a identity card.

“This community seems to exist and not exist. It is difficult for them to get the documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, also Resident Identity Card (KTP),” told Lie Lie. Although the document is a prerequisite for accessing education, health, and other services.

Finally, the co-operative also took the initiative to help manage various important documents. From those who initially did not understand how to take care of the administrative and rely on brokers, now residents get documents free of charge with the facilitation of co-operatives and through communication with local governments. Some co-operative members even became cadres of the administrative population of the village to help other residents who do not have a legal identity.

Another concern of co-operatives is the culture. In the past, Cokek Dance was underestimated because it was considered to be obscene, erotic, and various other negative matters. But now the Cokek Sipatmo dance has become one of the arts often performed by the women of the Benteng China community at various events.

Being a cadre who ignites change and witnesses firsthand the lives of members of the community that are touched makes Lie Lie happy. She proudly conveyed her life principles,

“I want my life to have an impact. I want to be salt and light, and be a blessing to others.”

The Benteng Chinese Community has now been elevated, economic life has also improved.

“We are all the same, God’s creation, from any background, any indigenous ethnicity, it’s all the same. No need to discriminate. To realize peace and beauty, Unity in Diversity.”

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Lie Lie is one of the organic cadres of Program Peduli called Pandu Inklusi Nusantara (PINTAR). In November 2018, Lie Lie received appreciation from Program Peduli and had the opportunity to share experiences in the PINTAR Appreciation Night event in Yogyakarta.